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Pace Yourself

Those who stop by here regularly likely know that I’m an avid runner. It’s been a part of my regimen since I was probably seven. I think what started it was my sister telling me I should be a runner because runners have small butts. But whatever the reason, it stuck and now nearing fifty, it has helped keep me relatively healthy and mentally stable.

One thing I learned from running was the value of pacing myself. I remember one particular track meet my freshman year of college where this point was very well illustrated. We were running the 1500 meter on an indoor track which adds up to about 7 1/2 laps. When the gun went off one runner from a visiting school just took off at full speed. I mean the rest12038670_10154254531642908_511981866436531684_o of us looked at each other and were like, “He knows it’s a mile right?” By the end of the first lap he was sailing off well in front of the pack. By the fourth lap, he was on the infield holding his hamstring screaming in agony.

I pictured that guy this morning as I was making school lunches. If you think of each year like a mile of a marathon, I’m on mile five. And let me tell you, some days I think I may have come out of the gate a bit too fast because I’m already suckin’ wind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the run and for the most part the pace feels pretty good. But man, every once in a while I get a parenting cramp.

As divorced dads, we all pat ourselves on the back from time to time. We make dinners, do laundry, help a kid through a school project, coach a soccer game, make it to every recital, have good heart to heart talks, drive kids all over kingdom come for school events and
playdates, make dinners, do laundry; wait I lost myself for a second. What was I talking about? Oh yeah. “GO DAD!” Parents know it’s a lot. And some days just getting the kids to school on time feels like a victory lap is in order. But know this; it’s a long, freaking, run.

If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know those first few miles you’re like, “This is EASY! Not sure what all the fuss was about!” Then at mile 21 you’re on the curb puking your guts out while your left calf muscle keeps involuntarily flexing. That’s parenting. Every mile the breathing becomes more labored. The hills get steeper. The sun beats down a little harder. And your legs get a little heavier.

So pace yourself. Stop at every gatorade station you can find. And hell, walk a few hundred yards from time to time if you need to. It’s OK if your pace fluctuates from mile to mile. Not every lunch has to include all five food groups. Not every breakfast has to be eggs, sausage, toast and juice. Sometimes a pop-tart is OK. Trust me, they’ll live even if every once in a while their socks don’t match.

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Is The Tide Turning?

“Hot damn!” I honestly yelled this out loud when I saw this commercial for Tide featuring a dad dealing with three messy kids. Three messy daughters no less! This guy is my freakin’ hero! So is the ad executive who pushed this concept through.

It may seem trivial to some. But seeing dads represented as the ones doing the house work and taking care of the kids is something we need more of. Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 5.05.46 PMWe aren’t all helpless beer chugging, ESPN addicts who can’t figure out how to start a washing machine. We know how to cook, we know how to clean toilets and fold laundry. We create household budgets, make school lunches, compare prices, iron, make beds, know our way around a vacuum (and empty it when it’s full). We know what a dryer sheet is for and yes, we have opinions about laundry detergent. OK, we lose socks. But hey, we’re not perfect … yet.

None-the-less. Anything that presents fathers managing the day to day of raising our kids is a huge plus and helps counter all of the negative stereotypes. Yes, dead beat dads exist. But look around any aisle at the grocery store and you’ll see more and more dads with two kids in the cart and a third in tow comparing prices of pancake mix and choosing the best tomatoes.

So my hats off to Tide. Keep em’ comin’! Next let’s see a divorced dad cooking a chicken dinner and ensuring he and his kids sit down at the dinner table together! (A boy can dream.)

 

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Divorced Christmas Morning

I told my kids tonight, “I don’t necessarily remember the gifts I got as a kid at Christmas, but I do remember the people, the places, the moments and the awesomeness of being with friends and family.”

They responded with several comments, but one in particular struck me. They told me how much it meant to them that despite the divorce, we still celebrate Christmas morning as a family. They said that most of their2014-12-09 07.34.35 other friends whose parents are divorced, spend one Christmas with their mom and another with their dad and that it means a lot to them that they get to spend Christmas eve and day with their mom and dad together.

It’s not easy by any stretch. In fact, I’m kind of blown away that we’re still able to do it. My ex and I are still water and vinegar and the holidays have a way of putting a whole new level of strain on new stress points. But somehow we manage to put it all aside for the sake of the kids. To hear my kids make a point of how much that means to them, well … I didn’t see that coming to be honest with you.

Kids first. That’s all I can say. If you put your kids’ needs first, somehow nothing else really matters. It’s more than giving them a great Christmas memory, it’s about giving them a foundation they can count on. A security knowing we’ve got their back no matter what.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times more. Kids aren’t stupid. They get it. They see it all and are privy to more than you can imagine. Don’t try to snow them. Be forthcoming and honest with them. And let them know they are your number one priority no matter what. They won’t ever forget that you for that.

Peace to you this holiday season. I hope whatever time you have with your kids is awesome. Take it all in and let them know you love them. That’s all.

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Merry? Really?

For the record, I love the holiday season. Mostly of late, I find comfort in remembering how I felt 40 years ago, doing my best to rekindle those feelings and that perspective of Christmas. I think we all need that. Why do I think we all need that?  It’s where the magic comes from and because without it, many of us are left with far too much focus on the emptiness the holidays can bring in later years.

The holidays have a way of making adults evaluate their lives every year and sometimes not in a good way. By the time you’re 40, you’ve likely lost someone close to you that leaves a void during the holidays. You may struggle with providing your own 977371_10152015631237908_3728297_ochildren with holiday magic. Or maybe you simply get stuck with a bad case of the bah hum bugs. Regardless, once you let go of your child like tendencies and succumb to the pressures and stress that the holidays can bring, you may find yourself left with nothing but burden.

These past few years, I’ve tried harder to lose myself in the holiday world my children live in and focus on the positives. And for the most part I think I’m better for doing it. Our house is covered inside and out with Christmas lights. We’re baking cookies, decorating, playing holiday music, watching holiday movies and spending more time together. Does it make it more difficult when you’re divorced? Well, in a word yes, I think it does. But perhaps rather than difficult, maybe the better word is simply “different.”

The kids will define their childhood holidays by what they experience regardless of whether mom and dad are married or not. They, like others, may be dealing with the loss of a parent. Or perhaps their home is not a happy one to begin with. So any attempt we make to provide our kids with Christmas cheer and magic I think is a good thing. Let them hold on to it as long as possible. Give them something to carry with them when they’re older as a foundation of joy during a season that can be the basis of so much pain.

“What? Pain? It’s the holidays you fool!” Yeah, pain. The holidays can quite frankly be one of the most surfacy times of the year as we all put on 12339162_10154392275487908_27378977208865453_oour best face because no one can be glum during the holidays. Well, the reality is, the holidays are tough for everyone on some level. Some more than others. Work stress, family stress, spiritual stress (yes this is a thing), travel stress, “will they like what I got them” stress, “did I get them enough” stress, “did I not get them enough” stress, “did I get them too much” stress, missing loved ones stress. Look around you and I guarantee someone you know is struggling under the ugly Christmas sweater and festive lights.

Which is all the more reason to hold on to that foundation of childhood bliss if you’re fortunate enough to have it and even more of a reason to help build one for your own kid(s). It’s that ability to remember the blissful feeling gained from viewing the holidays through the eyes of a child. And guess what, if you’re a divorced dad (or mom), you’ve got at least one to live vicariously through. Try hard enough, and you may just get lost in the splendor that can be the holidays yourself.

If you really want to feel the magic of Christmas, welcome with open arms those you know may be struggling. Show your kids what the true meaning of Christmas and the holidays is about. In doing so you’ll make it one they’ll remember fondly for a life time.

Peace to you and your family this holiday season! Stay strong and stay positive!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough!

I’m watching my kids and the issues they deal with on a daily basis and I swear, you couldn’t pay me enough to be a kid today. I thought my insecurities were overwhelming when I was a teen. But the social pressures to be “happy” and “popular” put on our youth today through apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, ooVoo, twitter etc. are astounding. You’re measured by how many “likes” your photos get and image is everything. And no matter how much you talk to your kids, convincing them that the persona kids project through social media is 85% bunk, is impossible. They see happy, perfect and popular and believe that to be reality.

But let’s face it. As adults we view people’s lives through Facebook and assume it’s reality. I’ve read research that shows that the more you view Facebook the more inclined you are to be depressed. And that’s for adults! Imagine a teen who tends to be consumed with self-conscious tendencies. No way.

I continually attempt to remind my kids that the truth is everyone hurts. Everyone struggles with self image and self doubt. But it’s tough to convince them of that when all they see is smiling happy faces on their phones. Everyone’s successful and has the perfect family. How do you compete with that?

I worry about my kids. And I likely over-react when I see them looking a little down or quiet. That’s a natural thing for a 13-year-old to begin with. But I do get concerned. I can only imagine what races through their heads on an hourly basis. Can only imagine the things they read12138421_10154296188072908_4156606227263288022_o in their chats. If I was inundated with that type of constant feedback from 500 – 1000 other insecure, hormone enraged teens I would go bonkers.

On top of it they get plenty of negative feedback from us as we point out all of the things they’re doing wrong. What’s that? Not you? Please. You mean you don’t consistently tell your kid to pick up after themselves. Or to be nicer to their siblings. You don’t tell your child that it’s not ok to wear “that” to school or to talk to you the way they do when they’re approaching teen years?

There are times when I see what my kids are facing and I can’t help but feel like I’m in WAY over my head. How do you help a kid navigate through the pressures of school, social media, images they see on-line, messages they get from advertising, video games and television. The world is constantly in their face and rather than feel safe pulling back, they have a deep need to be accepted and social.

I do my best but even I fall short. I’m constantly beating myself up for what I perceive as an error in approach. I want nothing more than to be supportive and encouraging. But there are times I see my kids make serious errors in judgement and in assessing situations that I cringe and can’t help but sit them down and force my intellectual will on them.

What a crazy time it is to be a kid. And to that end, what a crazy time it is to be a parent of those kids. I speak a lot about the importance of working with your ex rather than battling them when it comes to parenting. Our kids really need our support and they need to feel as much of a strong foundation as we can offer. A split home for them is a fractured foundation no matter how you present it. They need to see that it is indeed solid and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to have them see their parents working together as a unified front on their behalf. Putting additional pressure of “handling it” themselves is not the answer. And by “it” I mean their parents.

You couldn’t pay me enough to be a kid today. But as for being a parent, I wouldn’t accept a penny. All I want is to see my kids grow up self assured and confident in who they are. And between you and me, I’m as overwhelmed with that task as they are. But we have to be in it for the long haul and just keep swimmin’. To do that I encourage you to be involved. Keep up as much as you can on social media trends. Talk to your kids. Interact with your kids. Listen to your kids. Seriously think about every interaction you have and how you can improve the next time. Be involved. Talk to your ex about what she’s experiencing with your kids (that’s right they’re still YOUR kids even when they’re at your ex’s house). You’re both on the clock no matter where the kids are. Communicate. Learn. Grow. The world is in your kid’s face. You need to be too, now more than ever.

My gut says the answer is to simple be there; be there and be there. To do your best to create a safe environment. For them to know they’re loved and appreciated no matter what they may be dealing with outside.

I could go on for another four pages on this subject. The truth is, I don’t think any of us have the answers. Sometimes it just helps to know other parents are experiencing the same things and that we’re all in this together.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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